Trading when SHTF: Survival Bartering Tips and Top 25 Items to Have

Trading when SHTF: Survival Bartering Tips and Top 25 Items to Have

When preparing, your primary focus should be building your personal stockpile of survival supplies, but wise preppers know it’s a good idea to stock items to barter with in a post-collapse world.

Bartering is the act of trading goods or services in exchange for others without the use of money.

There’s a chance you may run out of things you need or realize you need something you don’t have. Think of stocking items to barter as a way of shock-proofing your SHTF plans. If you’re lacking something you need and have items to barter with, you can trade your way to survival.

What Makes a Good Barter Item?

Bottom line first: the very best items to barter are things you can easily make or produce yourself since you’re not in danger of running out.

For instance:

  • You raise hens and have extra eggs to trade
  • You have fruit trees and know how to make jam
  • You have an herbal garden and know how to make medicinal teas, tinctures, and salves
  • You’re a seamstress and can mend clothing for a meal
  • You help a nearby farmer muck stalls, mend a fence, and tend the fields in exchange for a goat and part of the harvest

Otherwise, the items with the highest trade value will be basic necessities that people can’t live without.

The catch is that a lot of these most valued items – like water, food, and medicine – will be things you’ll want to keep for your own family. These items will disappear the quickest when SHTF.

Also think beyond the basics to what people will want or crave. Don’t underestimate the power of comfort. People will treasure luxury items and morale boosters like coffee and candy, and many will be willing to pay for them.

If you’re going to build a barter kit and stockpile certain items to trade, they need to last a long time. It also helps if they’re small, so you can store more of them, and be sure they are easy to transport.

5 Tips for Bartering Safely and Smartly.  

Know your community. It’s safer to barter with people you trust and know who you’re dealing with. Think local and consider barter items that are relevant to where you live. Know the needs of your neighbors and what they can offer.

Keep a low profile. Stay tightlipped about your extra items and never flaunt your trading wealth or its whereabouts. This is especially important if you have to start trading farther afield.

Rotate trade locations and be aware of security risks. This isn’t a friendly farmer’s market. Take every precaution to keep potential thieves and bandits from knowing where you’ll be bartering. Be cautious of traps when trading outside your community circle.

Barter different items. Avoid trading the same thing every time unless you’re dealing with someone you know and trust. You don’t want to become known for one specific item, i.e., you don’t want to become known as “the egg lady” or you just might find people coming after your flock.

Don’t barter anything that could come back to bite you. While ammo, guns, and other weapons make other bartering lists, these items are contentious and not on our list. Some preppers will tell you not to trade away anything that could be turned on you and used to kill you. We think that’s a smart strategy.

Shockproof your SHTF Plans by Stocking These 25 Bartering Items

When it comes to bartering in a survival situation, it’s important to have the right items to trade. They should be valuable, portable, long-lasting, desirable, and easy to store.

Check out these top 25 items to barter with if SHTF. Choose 5, 10, or maybe a dozen.

Remember, you don’t want to put too much effort into your barter stores, or it could take time, money, and effort away from building up your own personal survival stockpile.

1. Water, Water Filters & Filtration Tablets

Since clean water will be hard to come by, survival supplies like water filter straws or filtration tablets will be bartering gold. They’re also small and easy to store.

Alternately, if you have a good home water filter, you could trade clean drinking water. And if you have river frontage, rain barrels, or a catchment system, you could trade that water to be filtered or wash with.

2. Food

Foods like MRE’s and protein bars don’t take up a lot of space, are calorie-dense, and at low risk of spoilage.

3. Medicines & First Aid Supplies

Medical supplies from bandages and Benadryl to antibiotics and Advil will be worth a pretty penny when pharmacies face shortages or shut down in a post-collapse world.

4. Soap, Toiletries & Grooming Supplies

Hygiene will be both important and difficult in a post-SHTF world. Bars of soap, mini shampoos, even razors and combs are items worth storing to barter.

5. Toilet Paper

We saw the TP panic and hoarding that ensued with Covid-19. It’s clearly not a modern amenity people are willing to part with.

6. Lighters & Matches

The primal need to create fire for warmth or to cook with will become extremely important. They’re also small and easy to store.

7. Batteries

In a grid-down situation, batteries become the lifeblood of keeping things operating. As such, they’re extremely valuable.

8. Flashlights and Off-Grid Lighting Alternatives

Flashlights, candles, solar camping lanterns, headlamps, glow sticks, and other alternative off-grid lighting sources will become precious.

9. Fuel

From gasoline and propane to charcoal, kerosene, and even firewood – they’ll all be coveted as a way to provide heat, light, and power.

10. Alcohol

It’s not just for drinking. It can also be used as fuel, sanitizer, and medicine.

11. Instant Coffee

Besides water, coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world. Instant coffee is easiest to trade and store.

12. Seeds

Thinking long-term, people will need options to add to their food stores. Seeds are tiny and could help rebuild the food supply after SHTF.

13. Tools, Screws & Nails

Not only could tools, screws, and nails be used to board up windows in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, ultimately, they’ll be vital for maintenance and building new structures. Simple hand tools like screwdrivers could become a hot commodity.  

14. Reading Glasses & Eyeglass Repair Kits

This one’s easy to overlook, but if eye doctors go the way of the dodo, people with vision problems will give a LOT to be able to see, so they’re very valuable. The downside of storing glasses is they’re fragile.

15. Salt, Sugar & Spices

While a lot of people hem and haw about too much sodium in our diet, the truth is that salt’s an essential electrolyte we need and the one we most easily lose through sweat. It can also be used to preserve food. Salt, sugar, and spices will all be sought after if SHTF.

16. Sewing Supplies

No more going to the mall or shopping on Amazon for new clothes. Being able to mend clothing will be crucial, and sewing kits are small and easy to store.

17. Candy

While someone would likely prefer a can of meat or tuna in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, as time goes by, a bar of chocolate or handful of hard candies will be extremely desirable as a morale booster and creature comfort.

18. Paracord

Cordage of any kind will be coveted, but paracord is particularly strong and folds up small. You can up the ante by storing paracord grenade survival kits that include fishing gear and other supplies inside them.

19. Fishing Gear

Fishing gear lasts forever, and fishing is one of the simplest natural methods to put food on the table.

20. Duct Tape

It’s universally useful, inexpensive, small, and easy to store.

21. Playing Cards

Not just playing cards, but board games, books, and other analog forms of entertainment will quickly become valuable in a world without smart phones and televisions.

22. Cigarettes

Cigarettes are addictive and small, making them a good bartering currency. That said, we don’t recommend stocking them if no one in your family smokes because that’s money you could spend on supplies you might use.

23. Condoms

Bringing a baby into the world in the middle of a disaster is something a lot of people would like to avoid. Beyond birth control, they also have survival uses like keeping things dry, or alternately, carrying water. They can also be used as a crude rubber glove.

24. Trash Bags & Plastic Bags

They never go bad and can be used for storage, to keep things dry, as temporary shelters, tarps, and more.

25. Skills & Sweat Equity

Practical skills will have no end of use (or value) in a post-collapse society and will be great bargaining chips that cost you nothing. Same goes if you’re willing to work hard for trade.

Bottom Line on Bartering

The best bartering is…NO bartering. Ideally, you’ll have everything you need, but having items to barter will cover your rear end in case of Murphy’s Law. So first and foremost, make sure you and your family are adequately prepared – and then extra prepared – and then shockproof your SHTF plans by stockpiling supplies and skills to barter.

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Much of it is good info, not sure I agree with all of it.


Very good info.Some of which I hadn’t thought of.Thanks!

Kirk Guidinger

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